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Almost 100,000 new point-of-use (POU) coolers were installed in West Europe last year, taking the total above 400,000, according to the 2006 West Europe Point of Use Coolers report from leading beverage consultancy Zenith Intl. 2005 was the sixth consecutive year that annual growth exceeded 30%, bringing the market to five times its size just five years ago.
Also known as plumbed-in or mains-fed coolers, POU systems purify and chill mains tap water, offering a continuous water supply. Activities across Europe are primarily focused on offices, representing 60% of all installations. The rest are mainly in factories, hospitals and schools, with home use beginning to emerge as well.
“Yet again the POU market has delivered outstanding growth, driven by the demand for filtered and chilled water in a quality working environment,” said Zenith Research Director Gary Roethenbaugh. “Five years ago, most employers were installing bottled water coolers to help hydrate their staff. But today, point-of-use coolers are often the unit of choice.”
The POU share of total cooler placements has risen from 7% in 2000 to 18% in 2005. Zenith attributes this strong demand to a number of factors. Economic stability, greater recognition of water’s hydration and health benefits and the development of bottled water coolers have provided the foundation. POU sales and marketing have boosted awareness, particularly in terms of its cost savings and convenience.
Accounting for 37% of all POU units, the U.K. remains the largest national market by some distance, with Zenith tracking more than 150 companies operating there. Continuing U.K. growth of 30% a year has underpinned the success of the European industry. Italy and France rank second and third, with shares of 13% and 12%, respectively. Ireland and Germany complete the top five.
“Like many high growth markets, the POU industry is attracting large numbers of new operators and remains highly fragmented. The pressure is on to reach critical mass through organic growth and increased opportunity for acquisitions,” Roethenbaugh said.
Zenith forecasts strong double-digit growth up to 2010, taking the total number of units to more than one million and a 27% share of the overall cooler market.